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'Most Jamaican parents could become criminals if ...'

Published:Saturday | November 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM

OPPOSITION LAWMAKER Delroy Chuck has argued strongly that if corporal punishment is completely removed and punished by criminal sanctions, most Jamaican parents would be exposed to criminal prosecution.

A United Nations Children's Fund 2012 study showed that 89 per cent of Jamaican parents inflict corporal punishment on their children.

Reviewing the Sexual Offences Act during a meeting of a joint select committee of Parliament, Chuck said the removal of corporal punishment totally would result in chaos in the society.

"We can prohibit any use of an instrument of extreme forms of punishment, but to say you criminalise a slap, a pinch, a konk, these are things which parents do almost automatically when a child is misbehaving," Chuck said.

cruelty to children

Section 9 of the Child Care and Protection Act focuses on the offence of cruelty to children. However, Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison wants this provision to explicitly make reference to the practice of corporal punishment. This was a recommendation made to the parliamentary committee.

Fielding questions from members of the committee, Gordon Harrison said the issue that is often raised in support of corporal punishment is the biblical principle of not to spare the rod and spoil the child.

However, she said this was an Old Testament principle in the Bible which has been addressed by eminent members of the Jamaican clergy.

According to the Children's Advocate, a group of senior clergymen from Jamaica and their Latin American counterparts issued a statement on the issue which read: "We believe that the adoption of legislation to prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings is a crucial step towards a compassionate non-violent society. We support the aim of the global initiative to end all corporal punishment against children."

Committee member Senator Alexander Williams said while he was still grappling with the issue of corporal punishment, he recognised that parents sometimes resort to this kind of action to save a child from imminent danger.